Fastest bike for riding in the Pyrenees.

 

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Words by John MacKellar.

What is the fastest bike in the big mountains? Eight members of Team Chronomaster and along with 16 “Challengers” have just returned from an incredibly arduous and rewarding trip taking in 22,000m of climbing in just over 1,000km. The bikes of choice for team riders covered the full range. Some had chosen their trusty Tarmac SL4’s, others had brought S Works Tarmac SL6’s and the “trendsetters” who had opted to bring bikes with disc brakes were on Venge’s and Tarmac Discs.
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Pete aboard his SL6.

So, with bikes that span from Nibali’s Tour victory in 2014 to Alaphilippe’s weapon of choice in this year’s Tour, which bike is best suited to tearing up and down Pyrenean Col’s?
As this was a holiday it is therefore non-competive. But, Stage 1 – sorry, Day 1 was “won” ( holiday, not a race) by Joe and Kris, with several minutes advantage to 3rd. The day saw us ride in an almost completely straight line from Toulouse to the foot of the Pyrenees in Pau. There were no Col’s but a smattering of punchy climbs of 3km or less. It also featured the most straight roads I have ever ridden and the wind was also a factor. Fastest bike of the day, Joe’s Venge Disc, was perfect for these conditions.
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The flat and straight roads of Day 1.

After the transition day, we headed in to the mountains, where the Venge Disc took another sprint victory but this one at the top of the Col du Marie Blanque, showing that the Venge can also climb very well.
Then the Tarmacs’ pedigree and prowess in the mountains shone through, with the Disc bike taking key victories (key victories?! It’s a holiday!) on the Tourmalet and Luz-Ardiden.
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Joe and the Venge on the Col d’Aubisque

As we have already established, this was a cycling holiday and not a race so I can’t name which bike is the fastest. But… the next few lines highlight some of the features as to why I think the S Works Tarmac Disc is the fastest bike in the mountains….
“When ordering the bike back in Autumn I had the Pyrenees trip in mind. The Col’s on our route varied in length and size from Col de Peyresourde at 7km to the 25km climb to Lac du Cap Long. I needed a bike that could fly up the climbs and descend just as well. In the S works Tarmac Disc I have definitely found that.
The main reason I wanted a bike with disc brakes was for this trip. It enables you to run your choice of carbon rim with uncompromising braking performance. Carbon wheels and Rim breaks can overheat, or perform poorly when it inevitably rains. Luckily on this trip, the only wet weather we encountered was at the top of three climbs as we hit the clouds. The Shimano disc brakes give you consistent control and power in wet and dry. It gave me so much confidence on the wet descents, knowing that the brakes would stop me every time and allowed me to enjoy descents whether wet or dry. Where as, I felt like rim breaks left me borderline sh***ing my pants on the wettest descents.
Whilst talking about the descending capability of the Tarmac, I have to mention it’s handling. The bike corners on rails. It is quite unbelievable. For the trip, I swapped from S work Cotton race tyres, to standard S works 26mm tyres (not a single puncture in 1000km). I picked a couple of Strava Top 10’s on descents this week, although I never really felt like I cornered as fast as the bike is capable of. It’s just so stable.
Another great feature of the bike is the S Works power cranks. I also use SRM cranks and find the S Works to be as reliable and accurate but they are dual sided and measure Left/Right power which my old SRM cranks don’t. The S Works crank is also the lightest power meter in the world which keeps the weight of the bike down.
The groupset is Dura Ace Di2, the gearing that the bike comes with out of the box is what I used for the trip; 52/36 chain rings with an 11-30T cassette. This was perfect gearing for even the steepest ramps of the Pyrenees. I’ve been fully converted to electronic shifting now after almost a year of using it on this bike.
The other bits of kit I used was the neat JRC Components Garmin and  Go Pro mount, Rapha small saddle bag and two carbon Specialized e-cages. The bike weighed 6.4 kgs in this build.
When 8 of the most competitive racers around, go on a non-competive holiday, participating in the activity in which they usually compete, obviously there is no bike which is ‘faster’ or ‘better’ than anyone else’s.
But if there were… it would have to be the S Works Tarmac Disc.
Posted in Blogs

Team Chronomaster 2-day

Team Chronomaster / Specialized Concept Store Chester 2 day stage race

by Ste, Kris and Tom

It was finally here! The race we’d wanted to organise as a club since we organised our first race a few years back. A stage race with 2 of our favourite circuits and a decent team time trial! With three races in one weekend to be co-ordinated, the task of organiser was going to be a challenging one. Our Tom Hanlon bravely stepped into the role and did a great job, ably assisted by his family (girlfriend Naomi and his mum), members and friends from other clubs that helped with advice from their own experience of stage race organising!
The week leading up to the event had been hectic for poor Tom. I’d helped where possible but he must have had some sleepless nights as he tried to tackle the forever growing ‘to do’ list! Fortunately, it all came together for the weekend. Marshals were gathered, British Cycling’s Regional coordinator provided great help with supplying advice, commissaries, accredited marshals and even turned up on the day to help out!
The results coordinating team of Posh Pete and Joe was assembled and did a great job albeit Pete has now developed a hatred of spreadsheets!
We also had a full field, comprising of teams of 4 riders from around the country. Of course, we were also going to have a team in this the best event of the year and by far the most important stage race starting that weekend. Luckily, I’d blagged a place on the team along with Tom Bracegirdle, Kris Zentek and Ronnie Coleman. We’d also supplied our own Junior rider Alex Drobrowolski as a ‘ringer’ in the talented, combined junior squad of ‘ Team SB Hub/ Chronomaster’.

The first stage, at 9.30 am on Saturday morning, was a 44 mile, 4 lap race help on the Bolton by Bowland circuit. A great, hilly course in a beautiful setting in the Trough of Bowland. Oddly, despite the circuit having been in use for many decades, I had never raced it despite the fact I have been racing for almost a hundred years!
It was a tad shorter than normal race distance but would be a good leg loosener for the team time trial that was to follow just a couple of hours after the finish!
The race started fast with riders keen to go on the attack from the gun, the prospect of the
afternoon team time trial seemingly being of no concern!

After just a few miles, there was a crash taking down several riders. Kris was caught behind this and, although he managed a soft landing on the grass verge, he was distanced from the bunch and faced a tough chase back.

The decisive move came on lap 2 and it received some assistance from an unlikely ally! A tractor managed to get between the break and the main bunch and with it being too wide to enable the bunch to pass safely on the narrow lane, we were forced to wait behind it for what seemed like an age.
Finally it turned off but the break of 3 riders was well out of sight.
The pace in the bunch was on and off, Tom had tried getting away to form a chase group a few times and I tried my hand also but we had no success. We then missed a move of around 10 riders breaking clear to form a decent chase group.
On the 3rd lap, a flurry of attacks forced the pace up the finishing climb and saw Ronnie lose contact with what was left of the main bunch.
The original break stayed clear all the way to the line and Ben Baugh of Wold Top RT out-sprinted Prologue RT’s Matthew Taylor and Bury Clarion’s Francis Woodcock for the victory. The chase group was just 20 seconds or so behind, on the line but Tom and I finished in the main bunch some 2 and a half minutes after the leaders.
Ronnie and Kris finished a few minutes later having completed the course on their own.
Now we had a couple of hours to recover before the afternoon’s team time trial and we weren’t sure what to expect. Kris had knocked his knee during his fall and wasn’t sure if he would be able to ride. It had been a tough race and there were sure to be tired legs all round.

We had a 2-3 hour gap before the time trial started at 2pm, and so we kicked back for a while, and reflected on the first stage. Kris and Ronnie were distanced on GC, but Ste and Tom were still in the fight, and so the TTT was an important stage for us. But Team Chronomaster have a chequered history with this type of event, so we were keen to get this right and hope that the gods were on our side!

We were one of the last groups on the road at 2:25pm, and the course was an additional lap of the circuit – just a touch over 10 miles. As we were lining up, teams were already rolling back into the village at the end of their ride, so we knew we were looking at a short 20 minute time.

We set off, having overcome the first perilous task of clipping in, and headed to the climb. Soon we had we got into a steady rhythm going up, the plan being to get to the stage 1 finish line together before engaging the next gear. But as we reached the summit, we were met head on with a MASSIVE tractor – more like a harvester, taking the entire road. We were already motoring, and as we tried to squeeze past it, all four of us fell of the edge of the tarmac onto the verge – very nearly causing a crash!

We got back on the tarmac, regathered our composure, and got going again. We had already lost a bunch of time here, and Ronnie struggled to find his rhythm again. He lost touch with the group, and ordered us to press on. We were down to three. It is probably worth noting that Ste and Tom were on their LoPro’s, but Kris had elected to ride his road bike.

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Ste, being in fine form, really set a hard pace trying to offset the tractor incident and spent the majority of the rest of the race at the front. Tom put in some great turns to share the load, and Kris hung on to the back on his road bike and dodgy knee from the crash in stage 1. The rest of the stage was pretty uneventful, and as we turned the last corner to the finish we were still together. We sprinted for the line, clocking a 24:44, which meant that although we had lost more time on the GC leader (who managed a 24:04), we had managed 4th place. Not bad.

But it meant that there was still a lot of work to do in stage 3…

The 3rd stage of the Chronomaster 2-day was as tough as expected, with the race covering 5 laps of the undulating Bashall Eaves big circuit.

A break of 6 riders established itself early on and pushed their advantage out to around a minute. The gap remained the same for the majority of the race until the peloton split to pieces with a lap and a half to go. Stephen Feeney made it into a select group that managed to catch the break away on the final lap. A strong sprint saw Ste come around a number of riders and finish in 4th place on the day.

     

 

Thanks to our sponsors, without you we wouldn’t be able to put on the event! Also huge thanks to Ellen Isherwood for the great pictures making us all look good!

 

Posted in Blogs, Results and Reports

Team Time Trial Round Up

Words by Ste Feeney

I donʼt hide the fact the I love a good team time trial. The equipment, the ‘all for one and one for allʼ – ‘in it togetherʼ attitude, the technique and the suffering too!

When it all comes together on the day itʼs so satisfying. Unfortunately, as a team this has happened rarely but could we finally be getting our act together?

This yearʼs National Team time trial championships, over a 50km for teams of 3 riders, was to be held in Cheshire so I was keen for the team to enter a couple of teams. However, injuries and commitments meant that we only had one team but I reckoned it was a decent one!

Jimmy Smith and Tom Hanlon agreed to join me. Tom is a top local tester, and not a bad roadie too!, with a super aero style. Jimmy is also a great tester and has been flying in road races this year.

As we were a new team with no experience of riding these type of events together we decided to have a little practice session a couple of weeks before the event. We chose a Tuesday evening club 10 on Rainford to announce our intentions for the team time trial. With very little discussion before hand regarding tactics, the event turned out to be crash course in how not to ride a team time trial rather than a confidence booster ahead of the big event! There were men everywhere! Splitting up because of standing traffic, men blowing up (after a heavy training session earlier that day 🙄 )and just general chaos.

Our subsequent discussions over Whatsapp proved far more constructive. We had hoped for another try out but the non stop rain dampened our motivation somewhat. However, we remained upbeat for the event itself.

The Nationals took place on the 16th June around a course in Cheshire essentially taking in 3 laps of Byley / Middlewich covering 50km. There were plenty of junctions and potential for hold ups but it was a very flat route. Weʼd decided on our riding order (to try and give some drafting benefit to the taller riders) and decided on a steadyish start to avoid the debacle that had occurred on our practice run some weeks earlier.

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Tom, Ste and Jimmy (Left to Right) in full flight.

The race itself went great. We rode smoothly and shared the work all the way and were happy with our performance. It was fairly straight forward with the exception of some mechanical issues for Tom (not me this time!!). Shortly after the start he hit a pothole and his handlebars rotated downwards.

Luckily, this didnʼt prevent him putting in a great shift. A tough headwind section down the dead straight King Street, saw us shortening our turns as the race progressed, with some benefit.

Indeed, after the race we decided that we would adopt a shorter turn strategy for our next event, the Warrington Road club 4 up 25 mile time trial in just 4 days. We finished with what I thought was a solid time of 1:05:23. We beat some good teams and were right in the mix just behind the top few teams.

Team Ribble did an outstanding ride to win beating their nearest rivals by almost 4 minutes!

Boosted by our efforts, and knowing we had the ability to push harder and go faster, we were looking forward to the Warrington 4up where we would be joined by Tony Greenhalgh. Tony is no stranger to team time trials and had been my partner for our win at the Blackburn CTC event earlier in the year so I knew heʼd slot in well! Roll on Thursday evening and the weather had improved.

There was a bit of wind to contend with though. For this event weʼd mustered up 2 teams. Also riding was Posh Pete, Kris, Joe and Alex. In keeping with Chronomaster tradition, despite a fair amount of enthusiasm for the event, we nearly missed it when the slightly early closing date caught us by surprise. Fortunately, the understanding organiser accepted our entries 😁 .

The Warrington Road club 4 up is an event Iʼve always enjoyed. There arenʼt many of this type of event (unfortunately 😞 ) so I reckon lots of other teams look forward to it for the same reason. It has become a great fixture on the local time trial scene. Both teams were off fairly close together and we all left the HQ at the same time.

Looking back I could see all our riders, all riding TT bikes and with matching kit. It looked fantastic and for a moment I reflected on how marvellous it would be to do a grand tour style, 8 man TTT.

Alas, it was only 4 riders this time and we would be covering some two laps of a course around Goostrey, Jodrell Bank and knutsford. As we lined up for the start we all knew the script and we headed off at a blistering pace. We werenʼt dropping below 30mph and the effort required to get onto the back of the line after doing a turn was considerable! Luckily, sitting in man 2 and 3 positions offered some respite before getting back on the front!

We were unlucky to be held up at most junctions and, as the race progressed, this caused some raggedness to We were unlucky to be held up at most junctions and, as the race progressed, this caused some raggedness to creep into our previously well executed rhythm. This coupled with some fatigue meant that the second lap was less smooth but we kept the pressure on nonetheless!

We finished with a time of 51:16. Faster than previous years and a pleasing time but with a slight feeling that we could have gone a tad quicker had we been luckier with traffic. We just had to hope we had done enough to be in the mix and, more importantly, beat the other Chronomaster team!

Kris, Joe, Alex and Pete finished shortly after us. They were also pleased with their efforts. Relative newcomers to team time trialling, Kris, Joe and Alex, thoroughly enjoyed themselves. My Chronomaster team mates finally beginning to see why Craig and I are always trying to push our riders to do these events!

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As we got back to the HQ to check the results I could see our other team had recorded a time of 53:03. A great ride! Our teams had managed to finish 1st and 2nd on the night! This truly represented unchartered waters for the team. Not only had we managed to cobble together 2 teams, theyʼd all turned up on the night and there were no mechanicals.

Although back riding, team time trial regular and enthusiast, Craig wasnʼt quite ready to race this year. Heʼs already looking forward to riding next year but this will depend on whether Joe honours his amazing generosity and returns his TT bike. He was quite taken with it…

Many thanks to Warrington Road Club for organising a very successful event on a great course.

Posted in Blogs

Welsh National Champs and Bashall – the long and short of it.

Words by John MacKellar

There have been much less posts and reports from me as of late due to reaching the busiest time at work and university. Now, it seems like the the storm has passed. I’ve got a brief report of the West Pennine Road Race, East Lancs Road Race and the Welsh Road Race Champs. If you only want to read about this weekend’s race then just scroll down to the bottom. 

West Pennine Road Race 2/3/4 12/05/19

The West Pennine Road Race took place on the Bashall Short Circuit and it was the first day of our week long summer. There were 5 of us from the team at this race me, Tom Bracegirdle, young Alex, young Ste and it was Si’s first race since his crash.

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Si back in action at the West Pennine Road Race

There were a couple of early moves that went and got brought back. The main break of the day was 4 strong and they had opened up a gap of a minute seemed to be holding it quite well. However, the main bunch hadn’t eased off, I looked down at my garmin after an hour and was surprised to see the that I’d been at threshold for the first hour. This high pace was unsustainable for the break and they got brought back.

Nothing significant had happened until about 2 laps to go (of 14) when everyone was tired from the constant attacking. A couple of lads slipped off, it seemed like a soft attack but no one chased. They were joined by a few more and then there were 6 in the break.

As we came on to our last lap, we came down the descent and flew up the little rise from the bridge at 30mph and had to dodge e-cyclists as we approached the turn. There were still 5 of us from the team in the bunch at this point, I found Ste’s wheel as we approached the long drag up to the finish and followed him as he began to move up. Ste and I passed Si as we hit the top of the rise and there was a pinch point due to some traffic, I got through alright but I think Ste and Si got held up.

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More of a drag than a climb but still made the legs hurt

I was on the right of the road as we approached the final left hand turn and I saw Chris Thomas go for a long one. I followed him and came round the corner 2nd in the bunch, not yet on Chris’s wheel. Chris had kicked but it was an uphill drag into a head wind and those sheltered in the bunch were gaining on us. I couldn’t get on to Chris’s wheel and was fading fast. Riders passed me and were closing on Chris. I saw Alex go past in the mix. Chris managed to hold off the chasing bunch but only by half a wheel. Alex did well to get up there and took 8th in the bunch sprint finishing 14th.

Here’s the link to the race on strava

East Lancs Road Race 2/3/4 19/05/19 – Bashall Long

I had been looking forward to this race since I punctured on the first lap of the SB hub race on the same circuit weeks before.

Weighing less than most people’s weekly shop, 5 laps of the hillier course sounded great to me.

This time, it was just Ste and I racing and we headed to the race together to the sound of some rock classics. The difference between this race and last weeks firstly was that there was a lot more climbing and there were cash prizes for the KOM and the prime every lap!

This changed the dynamic of the race and made it much more aggressive with people attacking on the climb and going for the primes.

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The climbers in their element

Ste got into a 5 man break at around half away and they disappeared up the road and it looked like a good move. They were away for almost a lap when a few riders attacked on the descent to Chaigley and I latched on to them. There were around 8 or so pulling turns and catching the lead 5. I thought that this was a strong position for us to be in with 2 from the team in a group of 12. However, people stopped pulling and the remainder of the peloton caught us. Nevertheless, the high pace had whittled the bunch from 60 to 30.

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Ste got into a move that opened up a gap quickly

On the last lap, Sam Fairhusrst (Bill Nickson Cycles) and Dec Hudson (Liverpool Century CC) slipped away and opened a small gap of 30 seconds. They stayed in view as we hit the Chaigley Climb. I got a small gap with a couple of strong lads as we came towards the final descent, it came back together but was strung out so I held a good position coming in to the final km up the rise to the finish. My legs held out in the bunch gallop and I finished 10th overall with Ste just behind in 12th. I was very pleased with that result, marking my best finish in a road race and showing progress from racing as a 3rd cat last year.

Here’s the link to the race on strava

Welsh National Road Race Champs E/1/2

This race was announced later than other races and took place the same weekend as the Divs. On a ride in the Peaks, my friend Dave Scott, had told me about the race and the course in Ruthin sounded exciting. Jimmy from the Team also had enough Welsh in him to be eligible for the Championship race so that made us two from the team. We were up against an elite field with two riders from Vitus, two from the Welsh Academy, Ribble and Richardson-Trek.

This would also be my first E/1/2 race and longest race of the year so it would definitely be a real test if I could match the pace in this race. The course was 120 km in total, with two laps of a 45 km loop including an ascent of the Nant Yr Garth Pass and then 4 laps of an 8 km loop around Ruthin town centre on closed roads.

My plan was to try stay towards the front on the main climb so as to be the right side of any splits.

Jimmy’s plan was to attack and he was in the first break of the day.

Meanwhile the pace was high and the break was still in view. Most of the elite riders were still in the main brunch, biding their time.

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A rare flat section of the course in Ruthin

The Nant Yr Garth Pass has two sections, the first part and my favourite is the main climb that snakes up through the trees, then it drops slightly and continues to drag on up on a very grippy surface, where we turned right at a roundabout onto an exposed road and into the wind. As we hit the section in the trees, I was well positioned and on the wheel of Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Vitus) and felt good. I shifted to my preferred stance of climbing out-of-the-saddle and held my position as we headed out of the trees. As we climbed out towards the roundabout the pace started winding up and it was starting hurt. We hit the wind and the bunch was completely strung out. This had brought the break back to within touching distance.

Then 3 riders attacked hard and had shot across to the break almost immediately. Others were trying to respond so escapees were almost brought back. Jimmy had seen this as the end of the break and came back into the bunch. Ben Granger (Wheelbase CabTech Castelli) had managed to latch on to the attacking riders, but his breakaway companion did not. The elastic eventually snapped and they disappeared.

Within 10 km another three had attacked into and made their way to the lead group of three. Then we rolled into Ruthin to start the 4 laps of the finishing circuit with Jimmy and I still in the main bunch.

The town centre had been closed off for us, barriers were up and

the crowds were the biggest and best I’d raced in front of.

With 2 laps to go, or 16 km, Rhys Howells (Richardson-Trek) had attacked with Chris Owram and I rolled the dice and tried to get across to them. It was a huge effort to get across but I had a gap, so it felt like it was worth sending my heart rate soaring towards it’s maximum. But it was not. Too many others had had a similar idea, so the bunch decided to bring us back. That effort had cost me so it was time to sit in the wheels and try and save any little energy I had left.

On the next lap, just before we started the climb in to the town, Jimmy put in a well timed attack and got his head down and opened a small gap. It wasn’t huge and he was within throwing distance as we climbed up to the castle for the finish. Jimmy managed to hold the rest of the bunch off to finish 10th and his efforts were rewarded with a great result.

As we hit the bottom of the climb and sprinted out the last corner I was mid bunch, but when I stood on the pedals there was nothing there. I was going backwards as everyone wound up for the sprint. I ended up 24th. Well done to Grufford Lewis (Team Ribble) who won.

Here’s the link to the race on strava

Thanks to Ellen Isherwood for capturing the racing on camera.

Posted in Blogs

Tour of the Abberleys

by John Bamford

TOUR OF THE ABBERLEYS 2019

To anyone not familiar with the racing scene in the UK may be forgiven for thinking that a race organised by the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists would involve a group of old codgers riding vintage bikes whilst reminiscing about a bygone era of various sporting achievements.

How far from the truth could that be!  The Tour of the Abberleys is always well represented and has now become a prestigious event on the LVRC calendar, ran over the first bank holiday weekend in May, and renowned for its aggressive racing on challenging hilly circuits in the lovely Worcestershire countryside.

Just looking around the car park on Day 1 re-enforces the likely quality of the racing to come, the amount of carbon fibre, lightweight wheels, power meters and other expensive kit, if totted up and pooled together would generate enough cash to purchase a number of high end Italian sports cars!

Yes, my fellow riders aren’t here for a jolly, even though the camaraderie and banter in the HQ each day is as good as it gets, everyone here means business and everyone knows the racing will be of a really high quality!

We have always had a strong team of riders for this event, having won the overall for the past 3 years courtesy of Stephen Feeney and Craig Battersby.  However, our team would be a bit depleted for the 2019 edition with Stephen, the previous year’s winner, unable to defend his trophy and Craig, winner in 2016 and 2017, side-lined due to a broken arm sustained in a training ride crash in the last few miles of our annual Majorca training camp.  We were all gutted for Craig as the Tour of the Abberleys is suited to him and he was in top form leading up to the event.  Heal fast Craig!

So that left, myself and Tony Greenhalgh to fly the flag for Team Chronomaster in this year’s event.  Tony is a previous stage winner, with his most recent win on the final stage of last year where he had gone up the road with several other riders, virtually from the end of the neutralised section, and managed to hang on for the win over the tough final climbs of the finishing circuit, despite the climbers of the race being on a mission to hunt him down before the line.

I had a quiet race last year, but was looking to build upon the top 10 overall finish I’d had the year before.  I felt I had reasonable form so it was all to play for.  Darran Acton of Tactic Sport, our friend, training partner and kit sponsor, was also joining us for the weekend.

STAGE 1 – Prologue

The first stage was a 3 mile prologue starting at the layby just across from the HQ.  This year there would be a tailwind so the times were likely to be quick.  The course had reverted back to the one used a few years ago, having experimented with a longer TT last year.  It was uphill for the first 1km then basically downhill or flat with one or two small rises, which wouldn’t pose too much problem to most when gliding along at TT pace.

At 55kg wet through prologues are never going to be my forte, and certainly not ones that favour the strong men who can churn large gears on the flat and downhill sections.   So I wasn’t going to get overly concerned about the result, I’d just try to push hard and see where that got me.  In the end I think I pushed too hard up the climb at the start, hung on for the middle section but died a thousand deaths in the last half mile.  I crossed the line in 7:15, with Tony recording a time of 6:46 good enough for 10th place, but disappointing given his ambitions of a podium position in the overall.  Shaun Tyson of Team Ribble won the stage and would wear the yellow jersey.

Despite the disappointing start we both agreed that there was plenty of racing to come over the bank holiday weekend and everything was still to play for…. Roll on stage 2.

The full result from the opening time trial is below:

STAGE 2 – Astley Circuit

This stage consisted of a 14 mile circuit raced over 3 laps, just a couple of hours after the prologue had finished.  The sun was still shining although a few grey clouds were gathering above us.

The race rolled left out of the headquarters with a neutralised section of about half a mile.  I positioned myself in the first half a dozen riders and waited for the inevitable grunt of the engine as the lead car sped off into the distance to signal the race was on proper.

It was at this point Darran and five others managed to quickly breakaway from the bunch and gain a lead of about 30 seconds.  In true ToA tradition there were plenty of attacks and attempts to break clear of the bunch, over the next two laps, none of which came to anything.  I’d followed some of the moves but was keen not help too much in the chase as Daz was up the road.

On the bell lap, the leading riders had been reeled back in and it was all to play for again.  On one of the longer drags on the back end of the circuit 3 riders broke clear, Dave Griffiths, Thomas McCormack and Nigel Modlinsky and these riders eventually contested the win, with Dave Griffiths, managing to get the better of the two Element CT riders.

Both Tony and I made sure we were near the front of the bunch going into the final couple of miles, with an uphill drag on the A451 stringing things out nicely.  As we approached the left hand turn into the finishing straight, Tony was 2nd wheel and I was a wheel or two behind him.  With a few hundred metres to go, Tony kicked and I tried to follow.  Tony won the bunch gallop for 4th place and I managed to grab 6th place…. Not bad for a lad with a worse sprint than Craig Battersby!

Photo courtesy of Vince Page.

 

Here is the general classification after day 1 and the stage 2 result:

STAGE 3 – Hill Side Circuit

Today’s stage was the longest of the race at 56 miles, An 11 mile lap raced over 5 laps.  A lumpy route with a climb of just under a mile to the finish line. The winner of the stage would also receive the Ramon Minovi Memorial race trophy.

Tony had managed to maintain his top ten overall placing, however I had some catching up to do given my average prologue performance from the previous day.

The attacks began once again, as soon as the lead car had headed into the distance. I tried to get in a couple of moves but it seemed half the bunch had the same idea. Eventually, 3 riders managed to forge a break and disappear up the road; Steve Lee, Jez Honor and Steve Dring.  A fourth rider, Nigel Modlinsky managed to bridge across and the quartet managed to hold a slender gap (20 – 40 secs) for the remaining laps.

The race followed a similar pattern on laps 2 and 3 where the finishing climb wasn’t ridden at full gas but then attacks would go over the top and in the twisty back lanes before re-joining the A443 on the main road back to Gt Witley.  Amongst the many attacks, both Tony and I attempted to steal a march on the bunch, but it seemed all moves where now chased down.

The penultimate time up the finishing climb was ridden hard with Tony pressing on, gaps started to appear as the bunch was singled out.  The bunch eventually regrouped with half a lap to go and Tony and I had a quick word with each other about how things would play out.  Tony’s advice… “stay on my wheel Bambam”.  That was good enough for me! :O)

As we hit the finishing climb Shaun Tyson, who was sitting 4th overall, pressed on.  I held his wheel whilst Tony tucked in behind me.  As we hit the plateau that breaks the finishing climb into two, Tony shouted that we’d got a gap.  I eventually flicked my elbow for Tony to come through, conscious that I didn’t want the gap we’d forced to disappear.  Both Tony and Shaun seemed to kick again, and as we hit the final incline to the finish my legs went, full of lactate due to the effort, and I ended up rolling over the line in 19th place.  Tony crossed the line in 8th moving himself to 7th on the overall standings.

 

Here is the stage result and general classification after stage 3:

Steve Lee, from the original break crossed the line first to win the Ramon Minovi Memorial race trophy, whilst Jez Honor mopped up the most points from the breakaway to wear the KOM jersey for the final day of racing.

STAGE 4 – Worcester circuit (1 lap); Shelsley Walsh circuit (2 laps)

The final stage of the race is the shortest, but arguably the toughest with 2 difficult climbs each lap of the final finishing circuit.

Tony was sitting in 7th position overall, 1:48 off the yellow jersey, whilst I was sat in 25th spot 2 mins 32 down.  Given the severity of the climbs and tired legs from the previous days racing, anything was possible (Liverpool and Spurs fans would vouch to that!!).

Both Darran, Tony and I had discussed tactics and it was evident that the best way of making up time was to try and get in an early break and give ourselves time to build up a lead, in the hope that the top 3 or 4 guys on GC would be marking each other, essentially, in a carbon copy of last year’s final stage.

Attacks were frantic and often in the first few miles as we approached Martley and the left turn along the B4204 towards Worcester.  Attacks continued with Darran pretty much either creating or chasing every move, I attacked several times too, but with no rhyme or reason to it, all were closed down, then one or two riders would be given some rope and get up the road.  A group of six riders eventually formed a lead group including Peter Bracken and Paul Dring.  With Liverpool Braveheart having four riders in the race and Steve willing to carry out defensive duties for his brother, any further attacks were quickly nullified.

As we hit half distance of the 20 mile lap the lead group had gained 30-40 seconds.  I attacked again, and thankfully got a gap quickly.  I looked behind and could see a lone figure coming across, after another glance behind I could see it was Daz so I eased up slightly and as he passed me I jumped on his wheel.

We worked well together for the next few miles, eventually mopping up Richard Unwin who’d not quite managed to bridge across to the breakaway.  The bunch were nowhere in sight and so we pressed on over the rolling terrain heading back towards Gt Witley and the finishing circuit.  We could see the lead car not too far in the distance so probably had 20 seconds to make up.

The effort was heavy going into a headwind, but we all pressed on in the hope we could make inroads into the leaders.  As we approached the HQ and so the end of the Worcester circuit, a quick glance back confirmed our worst fears, the bunch was strung out and fast approaching.

Our bridging attempt was over, and when we hit the first of the two major climbs on the finishing circuit, the GC contenders pressed on, and with lactate filled legs, both Darran and I went backwards.  I managed to get over the top, glued to the wheel of Tommy Mac, who although he was sat in 3rd place overall had done a terrific job of keeping the pace high in the bunch for Nigel who was in yellow.

The leaders were reeled in at this point, and so the game was on for the GC lads, with Tony right up there in the mix.  I found myself in the second group on the road, a bunch of 7 or 8 riders.  We completed the first lap together and then mopped up another few riders who had dropped from the front bunch so our group swelled to a dozen or so with 7 miles and 2 climbs to go.

Over the punishing circuit Shaun Tyson and Dave Griffiths broke clear, clearly the strongest climbers on the day, and Dave managed to shake Shaun off to take the win by 16 seconds.  Tony who’d found himself in no man’s land between the two race leaders and the ‘best of the rest’ knocked off his effort and decided to save himself for the sprint.

A testing finale, with a 400m drag to the line, Tony managed to kick clear taking a well deserved third place, and moving himself up to 5th overall.  With heavy legs from the earlier breakaway effort I rolled in in 24th place, a disappointing result but that’s racing.

Here is the final stage result and overall classification:

Dave Griffiths managed to take the win, and wrestle the yellow jersey away from Nigel who rolled in in 14th place on the day’s stage, managing to finish 3rd overall, oh and he won the KOM jersey too.    Shaun Tyson, who’d raced strong throughout the weekend, finished second on the day and second overall.  Well done to all the stage and overall winners in both the AB and CDEF races.

I will end by saying a huge thank you to the organiser Mike Amery and his army of helpers who put on a superb event!  That army grows larger each year, (I’m sure Mike mention upwards of 75+ helpers) so thank you to each and everyone one of them, as without them, fantastic races like this wouldn’t get off the ground.

I’m certain Team Chronomaster will be back for the 2020 edition with Craig ready to try and make it a hat-trick of overall wins.

 

 

 

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Phil Ward Memorial

by Jimmy Smith

The Phil Ward Memorial is one of the grippiest courses in the local area, with hardly a metre of flat roads, and lots of narrow lanes thrown in too.
I always seem to go well on courses like this, but with it being a 2/3/4, recent weeks have taught me i seem to be marked man in regional races. Nevertheless, myself, Ste, Matt and Kris lined up for the 70 mile race, with the hopes of a decent result in a strong field.

The race started really strangely, with no real neutralised section, one rider attacked the first climb and sat on the back of the lead car, a few others bridged across, and that was the initial break gone (can only assume the lead car was oblivious)
The racing after that took its usual negative pattern, attack, chase, sit up with no ideas.

I had tried to switch my tactics up from recent weeks, as being followed every time you put a dig in can get frustrating! So i decided to save a bit in the first part of the race in the hopes of getting away later on. The fast pace meant we had all but caught the lead group of 4 around half way through, they were literally dangling a few seconds ahead of the bunch when 5 riders rolled across and gave them extra momentum. I noticed the danger and tried to bridge, putting in a dig on a climb, only for the bunch to be lined out behind me. After that, the elastic snapped and the lead grew, with no real chase being organised.

Coming into the penultimate lap, myself and Ste tried a few digs to form a selection but again, the negativity won out. Coming into the bell, I felt frustrated as I knew I was on a good day but would only be racing for a minor place.

Nevertheless, a quick chat with Ste and we both hit the final climb in really good position. He lined it out from a km to go, with the road gently rising up towards the line, looking backwards I knew everyone was suffering. I was still feeling strong so as he finished his effort I hooked onto the first wheel to come by and started the sprint. With 200 to go I was still on the front, and managed to just about hold off the field for 9th.

Although a good result in a hard race, I knew the legs were there for more, not many days you feel that good so its a shame not to capitalise, but I guess that is racing!

A massive thank you as always to all of our sponsors, and the organisers for a top race. Also special mention to Ste for his top leadout!

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LVRC National Time Trial Championship

by Ste Feeney

On Sunday I took part in the annual LVRC time trial championships, which have been held in Warwickshire for many years now. This was my second participation. The first one being last year although my reasons for entering that one differed slightly from this year.  Last year I bought a new Time trial bike to use mainly in a few early team time trials. However, as the ‘Beast from the East’ forced their cancellation, I thought I’d better do a time trial and test the new steed.

The LVRC time trial seemed like a perfect opportunity. I hadn’t really done a decent time trial for a few years but, despite being well beaten for the win that year, I was really pleased to be amongst some really good riders and ‘testers’ which gave me some renewed enthusiasms for solo events. I did a few more time trials that year and had a few decent results so when I entered this year I hoped to improve on my 4th place from the year before. Despite a quiet start to the year, I knew I was in pretty good shape after our annual trip to Majorca, so was going to give it my all!

Unfortunately for team mate Craig, a heavy fall and broken arm suffered during the final few miles of the Majorca trip ruled him out of this year’s race so I was the team’s sole representative on the day.

The race distance had increased from the previous year, up from 13 to 17.5 miles. After studying the new route I realised that this essentially removed a particularly steep, unpleasant climb after around 4 miles (a climb that resulted in our Tony Greenhalgh renaming the event the National hill climb TT champs!). Therefore, I believed the route would be a rolling one with no nasty surprises.

In the days leading to the event I had decided that I was going to use my 50mm front wheel as I expected some blustery winds and also to keep my bike weight down for the hilly route. This meant altering the brakes. As I removed the brake cover to access the front brake I noticed how dirty it was inside and decided to clean it. Unfortunately (and this won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with my mechanical skills), my heavy handedness, a source of many broken bolts and sheared threads over the years, meant I cracked the fairing right down the middle! However, I convinced myself that the tidy repair job executed (specifically, the generous helpings of shiny, smooth insulation tape) had actually reduced the front end drag of my bike.

As I prepared for the start I knew I’d have to pace myself well. Last year I’d crawled along on the final couple of miles and finishing steep climb after pushing too hard early on. As I set off I settled quickly into a nice rhythm and my leg sensations indicated I might be on a ‘good day’ so I was careful not to get carried away. The cross winds at the start were noticeable and I was glad to have opted for ‘only ‘ a 50mm front wheel. The use of my beloved Campagnolo rear disc wheel was never in doubt.  After an early glance down at my computer to check progress I realised I hadn’t reset it after my warm up so a quick reset and I was on my way! I don’t use a power meter or heart rate monitor so I had to have some reference, even if that was only speed and distance covered.

After a 2.4 mile crosswind stretch, the course veered left, up a bit of a drag to what I termed the top of the course. This turned out to be a lovely stretch of straight, virtually flat, traffic free, open road (save for just one short, steep, climb) that took us to a left hand turn just before the halfway point.  Here I realised that, although I had correctly identified the exclusion of the nasty, steep climb from last year, I had failed to assess that a different longer and steeper climb had replaced it!  As my speed was almost instantly wiped away by the gradient, I engaged a gear pretty close to, if not actually, my bottom gear and pushed on to the top trying not to press too hard so I wouldn’t be able to get going again. Once over the top I quickly got back into my rhythm, making decent progress through some winding lanes and rolling climbs. The miles seemed to pass quickly as I headed to the finish, maintaining a good pace all the way and not feeling like I was fading as I had the previous year. Onto the last climb and, unlike last year, I sprinted up it full bore to the finish line.

I was so pleased with my finishing sprint that I wondered whether I had pressed hard enough in the race. As the results came in I realised I had taken the win by just 3 seconds and had no doubt that my  hill climb esque sprint finish probably clinched the win.

I was joint fastest on the day as well as winning my age category.

Top 3: Me 41:45 David Kiernan- (Race Rapid) 41:48 Tim Smith – (Welland Valley CC) 42:12

I was naturally delighted to win my first national title and even more pleased after analysing the results afterwards and realising that the 2nd place rider had actually put 41 seconds into me last year in this event over the shorter distance!

I am a great believer in a pint of Guinness the night before a race but realised I’d actually benefited from an accumulation of Guinness consumption over a few days before the race. Therefore, I shall be conducting further experimentation in order to establish the optimum  Guinness consumption rate and period in the build up to events!

I’d like to thank the organisers, Team Jewson/ M.I.Racing, who have put on this great event for many years and to all the helpers and Marshalls that contributed to such a well run event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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